FAQ (ONS SRS Metadata Catalogue)

What is the SRS Metadata Catalogue?

The SRS Metadata Catalogue is a new, interactive way to discover what data is available for research in the Secure Research Service (SRS). Researchers and analysts from all sectors can search by name or theme and bring back information about each SRS dataset, including its periodicity, frequency and spatial coverage, as well as a high-level description.

Who is the SRS Metadata Catalogue for?

The SRS Metadata Catalogue is designed for researchers and analysts - to provide fuller information on datasets contents and their accessibility allowing people to assess if the dataset will meet their research needs, even before becoming an accredited researcher, or submitting a project application.

What is on the SRS Metadata Catalogue?

This is a data discovery tool, so no actual data are loaded into the SRS Metadata Catalogue system. The core metadata elements remain the same as those that were previously published as a downloadable spreadsheet, but we have added more information, for example where a dataset requires special conditions of access or use. We have also standardised and enriched our categorisations, including how we describe what geographic levels are available. 

Search Bar:

The simplest way to look for data is to use the search box on the SRS Metadata Catalogue home page. Dataset names, geographies and keywords can be used to find relevant data. 

By clicking “Browse All” this will bring back all datasets within the SRS Metadata Catalogue.

All Datasets:

An alternative to browse all datasets, click on the “Dataset” menu item at the top right of the home page. This will take you to the main catalogue list where you can continue searching or filtering to find specific datasets using either the free text search box, the filter options on the left of the screen or clicking on the keywords within the dataset descriptions.

Useful Search Syntax:

The search default is a “fuzzy” search in the title and multi-match in all other fields, to refine this the following syntax can be used:

search term” : search for exact phrase

search term~ : “fuzzy” search across all fields

search term* or *search term : wildcard search, where * can be any character(s)

searching with Boolean operators:

  • term1 AND term2 : returns results that contain both term1 and term2.

  • term1 OR term2 : return results that contain either term1 or term2.

  • term1 NOT term2 : return results that contain term1 but exclude those that contain term2

Advanced Search Guidance:

Advanced search is now available which allows the user to specify where to search. To use this functionality click on the Advanced Search button next to the search bar.

For the SRS Metadata Catalogue, two options are most relevant:

  • Dataset - to search in the descriptive metadata

  • Data Element - to search in the data dictionary (variable name and description)

Once the area to search is selected, enter the search term in the search bar and click Search.

If searching using Data Element please be aware that multiple results can be returned for the same dataset as the item maybe found in different files/tables within that dataset.

Dataset Metadata:

The descriptive metadata of a dataset can be navigated by either scrolling down or clicking on the appropriate tab which is situated below the dataset name.

The Data Dictionary tab will allow you to access the variable list for the dataset. When the tab is clicked it will open a secondary left banner which lists the available Data Classes/ Tables within the dataset and clicking on each will bring back the list of the variables within that class.

Clicking on an individual variable/data element will display the variable description and the data type.

Data dictionaries and any uploaded documentation are available for download by going to the Assets tab and clicking on the relevant file.

Dataset DOIs

Dataset entries include a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) name in the Summary section, providing a persistent link to a dataset’s metadata entry.

Using DOIs

DOI names should be included wherever SRS datasets are referenced (scientific articles, newsletters, twitter, etc.) and are converted into web links by including the DOI after https://doi.org/ (e.g. https://doi.org/10.57906/0y39-4s34)

Citing SRS Metadata Catalogue data

DOI citation text is provided in the Summary section for each dataset. This can easily be copied by clicking the copy symbol to the right of the text.

ONS recommended citation format is outlined below:


Dataset name

DOI Name


ONS recommended citation

[Data controller], released [Release date format XX Month 20XX], ONS SRS Metadata Catalogue, dataset, dataset name [edition with dataset URL link embedded], DOI url

Example: ONS data owner /controller

Office for National Statistics, released 14 May 2020, ONS SRS Metadata Catalogue, dataset, Annual Business Inquiry – UK, https://doi.org/10.57906/59tw-g536

Example – non ONS data owner/controller

Ministry of Justice, released 10 March 2022, ONS SRS Metadata Catalogue, dataset, MoJ Data First Linked Criminal Courts, Prisons and Probation - England and Wales, https://doi.org/10.57906/0y39-4s34

Example – where no entry in the SRS Metadata Catalogue (bespoke data)

Department of Education, released 10 March 2022, ONS Secure Research Service, dataset, Bespoke National Pupil Database extract

In-text Citations

The full citation for data used should always be included in the publication’s reference list/section. The ‘author’ is the dataset owner/controller and the date, the date of release. Datasets should always be referenced within the text, for example for LEO, the in-text citation would be (Department for Education et al, 2021).

Altmetric Badges

Altmetric is a service that tracks the usage of our dataset DOI’s. It pulls data from:

  • Social media

  • Traditional media

  • Blogs

  • Online reference managers like Mendeley and CiteULike

and many other sources.

What do the coloured circles mean?

The coloured circle is the 'Badge’ (also called a donut) and are the front line visual representation of all the information that Altmetric has aggregated.

The number in the centre of the circle is the Altmetric Attention Score for the dataset being viewed. The colours of the Altmetric donut represent different sources of attention.

If you click on the circle, you will be directed to a landing page page that gives a detailed breakdown of the dataset mentions.

Why do some datasets have a grey circle?

Some datasets have grey circle with a question mark in the centre instead of a number. This just means that there haven't been any mentions of the data yet.


If you are going to be publishing in a journal, please make sure you formally reference the data with its DOI in your References section, as journal Data Availability Statements are not currently monitored by Altmetric (Dimensions).

Access Levels

Each dataset in the catalogue is marked with an access level from Level 0 to Level 3 

Level 0 – Safe Room Only 

Level 1 – Safe Room and SafePod Only 

Level 2 – Safe Room, SafePod, and AOC Office Access 

Level 3 - Safe Room, SafePod, AOC Office Access and AOC Remote Access 

These are based on the stipulations given by data owners on depositing their data in the SRS. 

Project access levels are then determined by the lowest level of access achieved across all the datasets selected for a project. 

For example, if your project has six datasets in total, made up of five Level 3 datasets and one Level 1 dataset, then because the lowest level of access is Level 1, (Safe Room and SafePod), that is the only approved way you can access your project. 

For more information please visit: https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/whatwedo/statistics/requestingstatistics/secureresearchservice/accessthedatasecurely#access-permissions

How can I get in touch?